This week, God has made it very clear to me that I need more compassion. It all started when I came home from work one night and began to sort through the day's mail on our kitchen counter. I flipped through the pile scanning and sorting each letter into categories: bills, junk mail etc. I was moving through the pile with machine-like speed until I came across an envelope with a child's face on the front cover. The child on the envelope had a severe cleft lip and palate. I paused momentarily to take in the picture then quickly flipped the envelope over disturbed and admittedly disgusted by the what I saw. As I continued on in my sorting process, my conscience rang loud within me like the first crow of the rooster that convicted Peter of his denial of Jesus.
A few nights later I was leading a Bible study at my church. One of the participants shared a story of Heidi Baker, a missionary to Mozambique. Heidi has seen God move miraculously through her ministry healing the blind, deaf and sick. On one occasion she came to a camp where there was a large group of terminally ill people under a tent. The Lord spoke to Heidi and said he wanted her to minister to each one of them face to face, cheek to cheek. This was an outlandish request because these people were contagious and their disease could have easily been transferred over to her. The doctors tried to convince her not to do it, warning her of the danger of getting cholera. But out of obedience to the Lord and compassion for these people she began to minister to each person. After only the first day, a few went home well, then the next day many more were healed until the third day when every person was made whole!
The cock crowed a second time; I was convicted of my lack of compassion for others.
On Friday morning, I went to a leadership training course that I've been taking for a few weeks. Our assignment from the prior week was to bring a group of co-workers together to brainstorm ideas that would save our company money. We gathered in groups of four at our tables discussing how each person's session went and elected one person from each group who's story was the most compelling. I was chosen from our group and was asked to stand in front of the class with two others to retell our story.
The first person to give a report was Rebecca, a very soft spoken young woman who works as a lawyer representing poor people. She told of how she gathered a group of lawyers, paralegals and administrators from her office to do the brainstorming session together. One of the administrators leaned over to her during the meeting and whispered, "Do your really want my opinion, I'm not a lawyer?" Rebecca encouraged her to participate and said that everyone's opinion was welcome.
After the three of us gave our presentations, the class voted for the one story they appreciated the most. And the winner was Rebecca. While the other gentleman and I had stories that were similar in their attempt to save our company money, it was Rebecca's willingness to "level the playing field" and have compassion on "the least of these" that made her story the most compelling. Although the business people in the class come from various religious and cultural backgrounds, everyone could relate to the humane decision of compassion Rebecca made. The cock crowed again.
The Holy Spirit began to connect the dots for me showing how each of these stories had one overriding theme: compassion. It is compassion that will motivate others to donate money so the child with the cleft palate and lip can receive corrective surgery. It was the compassion of Jesus shown through Heidi Baker that motivated her to take a risk for her own health to see God do a miracle. And it was compassion for other co-workers that led Rebecca to honor the opinion of everyone in her office.
So what do you do when you see a world in need of compassion, but at the same time your heart is desperately in need of more love and care for others? You do what I did, call out to God and make your confession and plea, "Oh God, forgive me for my hard heart and fill me with your compassion for others!" I know this is a prayer that God is going to gladly answer.
One last note: As we approach Mother's day this year I want to honor one of the most compassionate persons I've ever known, my mother Souad Eade. My mom has a tender heart for others, a Mother Teresa type spirit and a compassion that is tangible. Thank you Mom for all the times you cared for me when I was sick, comforted me when I was sad and empathized with me when I was hurting. Your example of compassion is a great one for me to follow. Thank you. I love you.
"And Jesus went forth, and saw a great multitude, and was moved with compassion toward them, and he healed their sick." (Matthew 14:14) Amen.